Monday, June 30, 2008

Less Bang for your Buck

While I enjoy growing and making as much of my food as possible, I do buy my staples in bulk from BJ's Warehouse club because it requires less packaging and buying in bulk typically offers a better value. Unfortunately, our oil dependence has had some unexpected (IMHO) results. Time magazine is reporting that we are now getting less food for the same money! Read the article here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/americasshrinkinggroceries

America's Shrinking Groceries
By KATE PICKERTMon Jun 30, 11:40 AM ET
American supermarkets are epics of excess: it often seems like every item in the store comes in a "Jumbo" size or has "Bonus!" splashed across the label. But is it possible that the amount of food Americans are buying is, in fact... shrinking? Well, yes. Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don't) manufacturers are choosing the latter. This month, Kellogg's started shipping Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks containing an average of 2.4 fewer ounces per box.
Similar reductions have recently happened or are on the horizon for many other products: Tropicana orange juice containers are shrinking from 96 ounces to 89; Wrigley's is dropping its the 17-stick PlenTPak in favor of the 15-stick Slim Pack; Dial soap bars now weigh half an ounce less, and that's even before they melt in the shower. Containers of Country Crock spread, Hellmann's mayonnaise and Edy's and Breyer's ice cream have all slimmed down as well (although that may not necessarily be a bad thing).
"People are just more sensitive to changes in price than changes in quantity," says Harvard Business School Professor John Gourville, who studies consumer decision-making. "Most people can tell you how much a box of cereal costs, but they have no clue how much is actually in it." Other segments of the economy have made similar moves to pass on their higher costs to the consumer without raising prices directly. American Airlines announced in May that it would charge $15 each way for a single checked bag, part of what airlines have dubbed "a la carte" pricing, which - along with the industrywide drive to put price tags on former freebies like soft drinks, meals and headphones - some airline observers say is really an effort to avoid increasing base ticket prices.
Once they're asked about the changes, food manufacturers are quick to explain their own increasing overhead costs - a Kellogg's spokeswoman said reducing the amount of cereal per box was "to offset rising commodity costs for ingredients and energy used to manufacture and distribute these products" - but most are not exactly going out of their way to let consumers know they're getting less for their money. Some claim newly shrunk products are responses to consumers' needs. Tropicana told the New York Daily News earlier this month that its orange juice containers, which also include a newly designed cap and retail for the same price as the previous larger size, were the result of customer complaints. Said spokeswoman Jamie Stein, "We had a lot of spillage with our old products. It's a value-added redesign."
Reducing the size of products as a way of increasing prices is not new. Frito-Lay cut the amount of chips in their bags and Poland Springs reduced its water cooler jugs from 6 to 5 gallons years ago, all while keeping prices the same. Still, says Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federal of America, "What's going on now is definitely reflective of rising food costs and rising fuel costs." Waldrop says he doesn't blame manufacturers for taking the step to protect their bottom lines, but says the food companies should be honest with their customers about it. "If they're transparent and open, consumers are less willing to think [manufacturers] are trying to pull one over on them," says Waldrop. The changing product sizes are part of the reason the Bureau of Labor Statistics says groceries cost 5.8% more than the same time last year. Price checkers in the department measure more than 2,000 food items to determine overall food inflation, and when they notice product size changes, they adjust the inflation index accordingly, according to Ephraim Leibtag, an economist with the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture.
When a product amount drops below a benchmark like "1 pound" or "1 gallon" consumers often take note, according to Gourville. But after that, it's much easier for manufacturers to further whittle down amounts. It's all about taking away consumers' ability to compare apples to apples. The best way to compare food products if you're not sure if sizes have changed is to look at the "unit price," which breaks down the cost per ounce or per quart.
- With Reporting by Alex Altman View this article on Time.com

Friday, June 27, 2008

FREE Ride Weekend Sat, July 12, 2008 Seven Springs Bike Park

Seven Springs FREE Ride Weekend Sat, July 12, 2008 @ 9:00AM
Seven Springs Bike Park is pleased to announce the 2008 FREE Ride Weekend, July 12 – 13, 2008.The Bike Park Crew has been building some sweet new trails in the Seven Springs Bike Park and would like to invite riders to come ride the park for FREE – That’s right, unlimited FREE lift tickets all weekend long! The high-speed, six-passenger chairlift will be running extended hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., July 12 – 13.Additionally, there will be FREE bicycle test rides from Kona, Trek Factory, Trek WSD and Santa Cruz Bicycles. In addition to their standard fleet, Trek will be making a special delivery of 2008 Remedy and Session freeride bikes. All combined, there will be more than 100 bikes available for riders to test ride at no charge. Riders can choose between a variety of chairlift-accessed trails ranging from entry-level cross-country trails to expert-only downhill and freeride trails. Plenty of flowy, fun and exciting trails for riders looking for a mild bike path to share with their family or an epic freeride trail complete with ladder bridges, rock drops, fall-line sections and 20+ foot jumps.Of course, it’s also nice to have a good après ride party, so the Foggy Goggle Bar is the place for music, $2 drafts and a barbecue starting at 11 a.m. each day. And for riders who want to stay all weekend, there is a special lodging rate starting at $135 available for FREE Ride participants. On top of all that, Seven Springs is even giving away a new bike to one lucky rider.How do riders get involved in the FREE Ride Weekend? Just show up at the Foggy Goggle bar on July 12 and 13 with the proper safety gear to ride the park and test ride bikes for FREE. Call (866) 437-1300 early to reserve your lodging, since the special rate is first-come-first-served and the hotel is almost full!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Mighty Wind

Engadget reported today that 50,000 Delware homes will be powered by wind by 2012! Here is the article on the topic. http://www.engadget.com/2008/06/24/offshore-wind-power-park-to-energize-delaware-homes/

This is wonderful news; I am always happy to hear of a sensible energy alternative (not involving using food stuffs). The article also ties to another article highlighting Rock Port, Missouri as being 100% wind powered. http://www.engadget.com/2008/05/22/rock-port-missouri-celebrates-being-100-wind-powered/

These are promising and exciting developments and I hope that we will see many more of them soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!






So, you may be wondering where I have been. It's been a busy few weeks, so I'll explain as best as possible. First Jamie and I went for our first downhill mountain biking excursion to Snowshoe, WV. Jamie had the best time of his life and is considering racing as an amateur. I found the entire experience to be thrilling, death-defying, scary, and somewhat exhilirating and the jury is still out, but I've agreed to try it again. On my very first run the guys took me down the old race course and I did well through the rockgardens (super scary) and then I came to a rock drop that was several feet high. No one had really warned me that it was coming up, or trained me on the proper procedure to deal with such an obstacle, so I did what came naturally...I grabbed the brake. This was, of course, the wrong answer and as my friend's $5,000.00 bike plummeted straight down, I flew about 20 or so feet through the air (looking very much like a pink power ranger in my protective gear) and landed on my hand. I either bruised the bone or fractured it (its too difficult to tell without an MRI), but the end result was the same...pain. After a minute of sitting it out and a sniffle or two, I got up and kept riding for another 2 full days...yikes. Although I wore full body armor, a full face helmet, and goggles, very little of me managed to escape unbruised.

Next up came our first real camping trip. We bought cots and portable potties and carted all of our crap including our bikes out to Green Ridge State Forest for the weekend. We arrived Friday night, pitched our tent, roasted weenies over the fire, had some drinks and went to bed. We woke up early on Saturday to 92 degree weather, but decided to go mountain biking. Fortunately, Jamie forgot his shoes, so we traveled to nearby Cumberland, MD to shop. We found a local bike shop and learned that the trails there pretty much suck, so we agreed to pack all of our stuff back up and head for the relative comfort of Jamie's parents pool. We learned that camping in 90-100 degree weather is never fun, even if you do have your shoes.
Next come the tomatoes...so before we left for our camping trip on Friday I went to my local Safeway and purchased some delicious roast beef, bread, and tomatoes to make myself a real sandwhich that would leave me feeling full and ready to traipse off into the woods. Fast forward to Monday, June 9th. I arrive at work with a fever of 103 degrees and am feeling pretty crummy. I head to my doctor's office on the second floor where she tells me that I need to develop some more symptoms before she can treat me, but its probably just a virus that's going around. I take 800 mg of iburprofren and 500 mg of acetaminophen just to keep my temperature down to 101/102 degrees. Tuesday morning I develop horrific stomach cramping and spasms..to the ER I go. I was hospitalized from June 10 - 13th (4 days!). For two days, nothing but blood came out. It look like someone had been axe murdered in my butt. That is one excruciating experience that I hope to never, ever relive. Oh, and did I mention that when I got to Johns Hopkins Emergency Room, that the wait was so long, that there were no seats in the waiting room! 2 hours later, the gentleman assigned to making us more comfortable indicated that it might be another 3-4 hours wait. I promptly left, went home and took a nap. Once the pain returned I made my fiancee drive me to the closest ER where I was subsequently admitted and treated for.......salmonella poisoning! The Department of Health interviwed me, but it was too late, another woman had already claimed the first reported case in Maryland. So, I was taken out by a tomato; I couldn't believe it. This is one more reason to stick to local, organic farms as your veggie source. I'm just glad no one else in my family was sickened. Now, this week....Motorcycle License. That's right, I'm going to learn to ride and receive a license to operate a donorcycle. Wish me luck!

Chronicling my adventures in proving that less is more. I'll learn to refashion/recycle clothes, prepare gourmet meals using as many natural/basic/raw ingredients as possible. I'll learn to spend less, live more, and reclaim those things that are truly valuable in my life.

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